With just two games upcoming this week for the Nashville Predators, they'll have an opportunity to hone their game in practice and work on some of the issues which have dogged them lately. Can they work out the kinks and bring their best effort against two key divisional opponents?
Let's take a look...
Tuesday vs. Chicago Blackhawks
The Blackhawks are in the grips of an out-of-control spiral through the Western Conference standings, an 0-7-1 stretch that began when the Preds beat them in a home & home series on January 21st and 24th. Cue the panic from Second City Hockey:
The holes on this team have been manifold from pretty much the get go, so those looking for a trade were always going to get their wish. The whole Brendan Morisson thing hasn't really come up 7's, though it was low-risk to begin with. Someone is going to get shipped off, either for another center, another rugged forward, or some manner of defenseman. A goalie? Maybe, but the options are limited. But the bigger question now becomes what to do with this coaching staff. The oft mentioned "core" isn't going anywhere, no matter how many meatballs bellow for a trade of Kane for the completely human and often bad Ryan Miller. Picks and prospects are going to be dealt at the risk of mortgaging the future, because that's what happens to accumulated picks and prospects.
The root of the trouble? Most likely goaltending, as Corey Crawford hasn't exactly seized the reins in the Windy City:
|2011 - Corey Crawford||39||2225||18||14||5||111||2.99||1090||979||.898||0|
Tuesday's game marks an opportunity for the Predators to give the Hawks another kick down the stairs,
Friday at Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings are an interesting team, in that they're cruising along at the top of the Western Conference standings, but have a losing record (15-15-1) on the road. The difference, of course, is their ridiculous home record, where their 22-2-1 mark (pending tonight's game with the Philadelphia Flyers) has turned Joe Louis Arena into a house of horrors for their guests.
The Preds are 1-2 against Detroit so far this season, and if they harbor hopes of taking their first Central Division title, beating the Red Wings head-to-head is the best way to close that gap. As usual, things revolve up front around perhaps the most talented two-way forward in the NHL:
|2011 - Pavel Datsyuk||55||14||41||55||16||14||3||0||4||133||10.5|
Given the upcoming schedule, then, what makes for a successful week in your mind? Obviously, getting back in the win column is a good start, but keeping Detroit and/or Chicago from earning points in the standings themselves is almost as important as anything the Preds do themselves.